Thursday, 20 August 2009

Bella in the Buckby flight

We set out from Weedon at 9 this morning, making our way to moor up in the pound between Buckby top lock and the next down - between locks 8 and 7 of the Buckby flight on the Grand Union east of Northampton. This is where we thought we'd set out for last Friday and we ended up in Bugbrooke instead! We needed to moor up by 1pm, as Elizabeth had a telephone appointment, and even with stopping at the bottom lock for a visit to the Chandlery and cafe for coffee, we moored up easily by 12:30.

The way up the flight, we were joined by Goldeneye - a frustrated Bond Girl presently working for British Waterways. She was pushing a barge of clay being used to fill holes in the canal sides. Having the very open barge at the front presented quite a risk, we were told. Should the water from the upper pound be released too quickly into the lock, the water rushes and can fill the barge - making it sink! Apparently this has happened a bit much for the liking of the BW worker who joined us in working locks.

As this is written, we are basking in a bright day day and being severely buffeted about by winds with gusts up to 43mph. Rosemary has already fallen over and been restored to rights, and we have pushed the rest of the garden into a heap so each pot can support the other. Pete is listening to Cricket. The phot of the little shop is the canal side shop with canal stuff just by lock 8. Elizabeth has frequently wanted to stop here and today, achieved it! Two ice creams and a new oil lamp are the evidence. Well, the ice creams are no longer in evidence.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Weedon & BBQ

When we were moored in Thrupp on the 11th of July and helped Kate car hopping to Banbury, we stopped and bought a BBQ in Banbury. We had internet shopped the choices and realised that this stainless steel barrel shaped was best for us, being able to be used as an oven in a small space, let alone being able to store easily in the bows.

It is now the morning of the 18th of August - nearly 5 weeks later. We finally had the kind of weather last night when we could use it!!! So here is Barbie, in all her glory, baking potatoes first, then cooking great sausages and veg kebabs. Yum.

We're still in between the Aqueducts in Weedon, having much work to do in the days. We had planned to set aside August as a non GKG month and a Bella Maintenance month, but two excellent contracts came mostly Pete's way and we could not turn them down. So Elizabeth is working lightly, doing a bit of project management here and there, and Pete is working most days including the odd train journey (Cambridge, Bristol, soon Sheffield...). Maintenance will have to wait though Elizabeth is doing a bit. And Pete wants to deal with the rust on the roof. Really.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Weedon for the night

From Stowe Hill, we travelled under Bridge 26 and moored up for water. All the while, we were wondering - do we travel on to Buckby top lock as we thought on Friday, or do we take advantage of the wonderful day and the lovely mooring and the hopeful forecast???? Lines back on board and Bella under way with full water tanks, we, um, decided to travel a few more hundred yards and moor up. By just after 2pm, we were moored here in Weedon on the Aquaduct. After mooring, we took Josie on her lead and all of us had a quiet walk to the Plume and Feathers via the steps down from the Aquaduct to the road and via the shop to get the Sunday paper. The peaceful night is seen from our stern deck after dinner. The bright shot was from this morning whilst walking Josie for her morning wander.

Steam boats at Stowe Hill

We stayed in Bugbrooke for a day to put on Levi and do some laundry. It was such lovely weather, we were thrown by having to decide to travel as it was wonderful, or to stay moored and enjoy it in situ! As it was, we stayed, Levi and (washing machine) did two loads and Elizabeth did lots of sewing. Having given up on extending the dining room curtains with extra fabric, she made two knitting project bags instead. Pete, meanwhilst, was sitting with his computer, Snowy, and creating a spreadsheet called Bella's Fuel Reckoner. A lovely early evening on deck followed.

Sunday dawned lovely and we set out north east again, ready to moor up at Stowe Hill for diesel and a visit with Dom and Helen. Elizabeth made scones during the travel to have hot snacks and fresh coffee on arrival. During the visit with talks of knitting, a moss green suede coat and Pete's amazing "Dom's Deisel Calculator" spreadsheet, we watched a steam narrowbaot pass. We heard it well before she travelled under the bridge, allowing Pete to grab Cassie (camera) and be in time to capture Adamant as she travelled gracefully and nosily by. Oh, and the diesel fill was within a fraction of what Bella's Fuel Reckoner anticipated it would be. Pete loves spreadsheets.

Off to Gayton then Bugbrooke

We set out from Stowe Hill on Friday afternoon after a few hours internet work. We expected to travel south east a little, turn around, then go to moor up in between Buckby top lock and the one below and use the services. But it was a lovely day! So we decided to give the turning point a miss and travel on for another few miles to Gayton Junction, the place where the Northampton Arm of the Grand Union travels severely down hill to the east towards Northampton. At the junction is an excellent BW services point. So we travelled, turned into the junction, then moored up for a bit to do the essentials. You can see that even Josie enjoyed it!

We decided we didn't really have to go too far, so we turned back to the north east and moored up by Bridge 35 on the Grand Union main line, just west of the village of Bugbrooke. A lovely village with a gorgeous tiny post office! Elizabeth used this on Saturday morning to post the jumper she'd been knitting for Jeffrey in Australia. Hopefully it will get there in time for the end of winter. She's now working on James', ready for his US winter.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Stowe Hill

We're moored on the towpath side opposite Stowe Hill Wharf for a bit now, until we decide to move again. It is a lovely country location, the sound of the M1 a distance away and the A5 not too uproarious. The West Coast mainline is not distant, but really only the goods trains can be heard. As you can guess, this position feels quite the centre of much. Northampton is a few miles to the north-east, Towcester is less than 10 miles south with Rugby about 15 miles north west.

Not only does the sound of the roads and rail remind us of all the transport developed since canals, but also this section of the canal system carries a wide range of boats from private to hire boats and some boats from the days when canals were the only way to effectively transport goods. One of these pics is of Pete and Helen in front of the sales room and the other is an old working boat set gently passing by, its butty the end craft and the boat pulling it just seen to the right.

From Bronney to Stowe Hill

What a fun day! We set out from Willoughby, north of Braunston just before 9am. We moored up near the marina after stopping to deal with waste, had a take-away from the Gongoozler's Rest and were finally met at11:45 by Dom, Helen, Defa and Trio travelling on Ravenspur. Dom has moved his Rugby Boat Sales office to premises at Stowe Hill Marine and today was the day to move their boat to wait for sale.

We had a fine day with wonderful sunshine and, of course, lots of conversatation between locks and boats as Bella and Ravenspur paired up for all the double locks on this section of the Grand Union canal (just to remind - Braunston is where the Oxford Canal and the Grand Union canal cross). One pic is of Helen stepping from Bella's bow to Ravenspur's stern as the loved yet forgotten crew is collected after Braunston top lock. The other pic is Ravenspur heading toward Braunston tunnel followed by Bella.

After the tunnel, we all met up again at Wilton Locks ready for the flight of 7 down to the pound for Stowe Hill. In that flight, we managed to buy ice creams and to lose a windlass and generally had a great time.

We moored up at Stowe Hill at 5:30 and by 6:30 were sitting in the garden of The Narrowboat pub, up the hill from the wharf. A fabulous reputation preceded so we had booked for a celebration dinner (Rugby Boat Sales move and Elizabeth's 55th birthday of a few days ago). We were met by Pat and Julie and had a stunningly wonderful dinner. What a day!

Garden, Centre lines and a pirate

We decided that we didn't want to get up at the crack of dawn on Saturday and so set out on the Friday evening after Elizabeth collected Pete from the station after a working trip in Bristol. As Pete had done the last day in June for setting out after an Elizabeth work day, Elizabeth had prepped Bella for setting out after a Pete work day. By the time they both hopped back onto Bella, it was a matter of untying and going!

The day was beautiful and the weather held for a glorious glide south. One of the pics shows our new garden arrangement, with the plants much closer to the stern, alowing more visibility. This is now possible as we now have two centre lines.

What THAT means is that there are now two very long ropes - centre lines - which connect from the centre top of the boat and, when ready for use, extend from the center to rest on the roof near to the stern and the tillerworker. And that means that the person driving the boat while the other works locks can gently set Bella alongside to wait for the lock, and can hop off Bella and onto the towpath with a rope easily to hand. When on the towpath, the tillerworker then works the centreline, grasping more and more of it into a coil and walking toward the centre of the boat while at the same time, pulling Bella close to the canal edge. Eventually, Bella is cleanly alongshide with no gap at bow or stern and the boat handler is standing at Bella's centre point in control of the boat with only one rope in use (as compared to full mooring with the centre line coiled on the roof and the bow and stern lines tied to the canal edge). AND - when there were things on the roof when there was only one line, all that had to happen whilst also watching that nothing came toppling off if caught by the line! Easily solution. Two centre lines.

So, the garden is moved.

The other pic is the arh harh boater called Pete. Note the pony tail curled under the back of the hat and the earring on the left ear. We suspect that the piratical gene was always there, but dormant. It developed a bit during his years as Executive Officer in the Royal Navy, but uniforms kept this slightly in control. There was much piratical behaviour then, but outward bodily manifestation had yet to show. Almost two years on the water, in command of his own craft, have meant that the piratical gene has been able to flourish. Watch this space for sign of any bandanas...

Anyway, this Friday, we moored up just north of Bronney by 7pm.

Day trip to Braunston

OK, you have to pay attention. Our dear James lost the will to live in the description. We had a coffee time in Braunston, mooring up there around 10:30, leaving around 12:30 and after passing so many moored boats and travellers, moored up back at Blue Haven just after 3pm. That's the headline. The detail is:

  1. We bought our boat from Oxfordshire Narrowboats
  2. When we got to Blue Haven nearly two years ago, we met Dom who runs Rugby Boat Sales.
  3. We introduced Dom to lovely David Dare from Oxfordshire Narrowboats who wanted to sell others of his fleet to people like us.
  4. Dom duly took on Chalford, a boat very like Bella and took photos of Bella to show what could be done with a boat like Chalford.
  5. Dom subsequently sold Chalford to a "Woman Vicar" who wanted the boat just as it was to use for parish retreats.
  6. Skip forward 12 months or so and Elizabeth is sitting in Aylesford Priory in Kent, happily greeting one of the URC ministers in their first few years in post, for whom Elizabeth is to some degree responisible in her work for the URC.
  7. Said minister excitingly reports that she bought a narrowboat. Elizabeth enquires where it is kept and Jenny replied, with Elizabeth recalling that she knew the marina, having stopped there for fuel on the Paddington Arm.
  8. When Elizabeth listened a little more, she asked - did the boat come from Oxfordshire Narrowboats? Yes. Was it purchased from Rugby Boat Sales? Yes. Was it the Chalford???? YES - so it was your boat we saw pictures of? Yes!
  9. So the "Woman Vicar" is none other that Jenny, a URC minister.
And so, of course, the two boats, let alone the two ministers, had to meet on the water. And so we did - Jenny and Clive on Charis (Oxfordshire Narrowboat Chalford) and the two of us on Bella (Oxfordshire Narrowboat Heyford). Jenny and Clive had gone west on the Paddington Arm, south on the Grand Union Canal, west on the Thames and then north from Oxford. They were on their way east back to the Grand to then complete the circle south and looked, despite the rain, to be having a thouroughly grand time. And just to complete the connections, Jenny and Clive have narrowboat friends who moor up in Blue Haven Marina.....

Bronny to Bluey

We expected to lie in a bit, but we heard the weather forecast and saw the sky turning a threatening and familiar dark grey. Pewter - beautiful to paint with Ultramarine Blue and Payne's Grey with a hint of Titanium White, but a git to travel through if the promised water started to fall. So we turned on the engine at 7:35 and were moored up in Blue Haven by 9:45. It was a slightly easier mooring than previous ones, as the rain had truly filled the pound. But with the marina still needing to be dredged, there was still quite a bit of effort from tillerman Pete. Yet - perfect timing! No sooner had we tied up, set the garden from the roof to the deck, opened the garden bench from the roof to the quayside and plugged in the electrics than the skies opened. The rest of the day was heaven for the weary ducks and we were happy to be dry inside.

From Fenny to Bronney

What a hoot of a day. We set out from Fenny just after 9:00 to meet Helen with her friend, Lorraine, and Helen and Dom's dogs, Defa and Trio at Marston Doles, the top of the Napton flight. In between much conversation, cups of coffee, various walks with dogs and chats with other boaters, we finally made it down the flight of nine locks just before 2pm. It would have been faster but for the great conversations when someone needed reminding to lower a paddle or open a gate. It was a blazing warm day, still a relief from so much rain.

We got to Braunston just before 5, fully prepared to carry on to Blue Haven and then thought, why? We pulled in to a mooring just north of the Braunston turn on the north Oxford canal and had a wonderfully peaceful night. We put on the engine again for an hour or so for the bread machine to make the dough, then sat down for our usual Friday pizza night.

From Banbury to Fenny

What a beautiful day! What with all the rain, this day was a treat. We pulled in to the services point in Banbury about 7:45, in time to enjoy watching the commuters catch buses from the station seen through the fence from the canal, commuters walking to the rail station, glimpses caught along the left of us as we looked toward the lock and commuters walking over the lock bridge and alongside the canal. And there were we, filling with water, putting off waste and watching Josie wander about the quayside not barking at any commuters. Wonders do happen.

We travelled along the glorious Oxford Canal, seldom seen by us in dry weather, with Elizabeth on deck knitting while Pete held his beloved tiller. Josie has now found ways to curl up on deck, so you can imagine the scene of the three of us, toddling off into the canal sunset. Wonderful. Occasionally, we saw more modern transport and enjoyed the juxtaposition.

We moored up in Fenny Compton just past the Wharf Inn and bridge around 3pm. Tea on deck, then collected by our friend, Helen, for a trip to Avon Dassett and the wonderful Avon pub to meet Dom with their neighbour and friends. What a good day!

From Aynho to south of Banbury

Today we travelled just a bit. Elizabeth took Reg to Rugby, having stopped off for a new ear piercing in honour of her 21st Ordination Anniversary. When she got back to Nell's Bridge Acre via train to Coventry and Kings Sutton then car collection by NB Acre's Sara, we dropped lines and took off north. After 10 days in one place, we were ready to move!!! It was at least a dry day after so much rain and we moored up south of Banbury just before 7pm.

On the way, we saw this highly unusual corral. This is the bridge of the M40 crossing the canal. A new bridge compared to the 18th century ones we usually use, this one is very wide and has a wide tow path. Except it has been corralled for a coral. If you enlarge it, you'll see that there are fences and the cows are being led to what, we never found out. A farmer - notably female - was on her way to meet them as we travelled by and all seemed quite peaceful. All but for the roar of the above motorway.

Billy hopes for food

This is Billy, one of the three dogs at Nell's Bridge Acre. He has just spotted that we are eating dinner and is standing on the jetty, staring down at our dining table... His dog family is made of Maisie, the tiny Lurcher/Whippet puppy and Rosie, the bouncy Jack Russell. Up on the hill behind him are the Arks for the pigs and if you enlarge the photo, you can see Clarissa staring down at Billy staring down at our table. You can also see the heavily grey sky.... Very (v V v) wet during our week and a bit at Nell's Bridge Acre.

Sewing and lock walls

This is really catch up time!! We've not blogged properly for weeks and for that we apologise and blame the good weather, the bad weather, too much work and hugely enjoyable time off. So we just haven't added blogging for a bit - sorry!

So, to backtrack to real content, but before we do - two more images of life here che Bella. One, the sewing room, just so you know that Elizabeth still sews (lots). You may recognise it as the dining room and you may recognise the closed cupboards behind as the office, shut away. But just to be clear, this is the sewing room.

The very very green shot is not the sewing room. It is one of the insides of a lock wall. So much grows on them! Sometimes they are a glorious blend of shiny olive green and copper coloured mud, sometimes they are soft green moss like this one. In Autumn, they catch transparent golden leaves and look like fine sculpture. The fragrance is deep dark forest marsh, heavy with aroma. Pete notices the frangrance of the damp weed clinging to the lock gates whilst Elizabeth breathes in the fragrance like rich aromatherapy. Ahhhhh.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

In Blue Haven until Saturday EARLY

Just to let you know, we've been moored up here for a bit since July 26th, with a little spell to Braunston to meet up with Charis and her travellers, Jenny and Clive. Heads down in work meant no inspiration to turn on the computer to blog! But we will upload lots of phots from the journey north in a bit. Today as we travelled by car back from a whiz to Oxford, we stopped off to see Sybill's brood of 11 piglets at Nell's Bridge Acre. Mum and offspring were doing wonderfully! Saturday sees us set off early to the Grand Union with Ravenspur and her travellers, Dom and Helen. Ravenspur is off to live at Stowe Hill for a bit and we're helping through the Braunston and Wilton locks. We'll moor there for a while to keep her company.

Do forgive the sparse posts! Normal service will resume...